#FortyDaysOfJoel - Week 1

Throughout the season of Lent there are no shortage of blog posts about someone giving something up for the 40 day period.  According to Christianity Today 1 in 5 Americans will give something up for Lent. Here is their top ten category list for 2015:

  1. Food
  2. School work
  3. Technology
  4. Habits
  5. Smoking/Drugs/Alcohol
  6. Relationship
  7. Irony
  8. Sex
  9. Health/Hygiene
  10. Religion

There are 2 items from this list that make me scratch my head.  The first being religion, because obviously fasting during Lent is a Christian practice, which thus makes it a religious practice.  And the second one, I'll let you guess on that one.

In the food category, your top category for 2015, here are your top given up foods:

  1. Hot Cheetos
  2. Popcorn
  3. Doritos
  4. Potato Chips
  5. Cheetos

The top foods given up were all snack foods, which is disappointing for me because I love snack foods (specifically Doritos and Cheetos).  Here is what Christianity Today had to say when it comes to food:

"Among all Lent fasters—including those not on Twitter—food is still the most popular thing to sacrifice. Ninety-six percent of fasting Protestants and 89 percent of fasting Catholics are giving up some food item. The overall breakdown includes chocolate (30%), meat (28%), soda (26%) and alcohol (24%)."

In the past I have fasted during Lent.  I was pretty successful when I gave up all forms of social media.  That was actually pretty nice, I was able to replace the time reading, studying, and spending more time with my family.  Meatless for forty days wasn't too bad, especially with Chipotle across the street from my office.  The hardest part was being at home and visiting family, specifically my family because I come from a long-line of carnivores.

joel-osteens-reality-showThis year for Lent I did not give up anything.  I am still drinking too much coffee, brewing and drink homebrewed beer, and eating meat.  Obviously I am still using social media because 95% of you reading this clicked to the site via Facebook.  No, this year nothing is off the table.  Instead of removing I am adding.  Specifically I am making time everyday for someone very special.  Someone who holds a special place in my heart (okay that might be a stretch).  I am calling it 'Forty Days With Joel'.  Everyday thanks to the power of the internet, satellite radio, and those his pearl whites I will be spending some time with the preacher everyone loves to hate.

I have been critical of the Joel's preaching in the past, as have many others.  He is frequently the butt of many jokes given by my good friend and mentor Jason.  The biggest criticism against Joel is his uncanny ability to preach the Prosperity Gospel to no end.  Pray hard enough, love God enough, and God will reward you with blessings (usually monetary) beyond your wildest dreams.

Because of these reasons I had written his preaching and theology off as useless and without merit.

This is where the addition during Lent comes in.  I am going to be listening to Joel in the car and have subscribed to his daily email devotions with the hopes of learning something from someone I have written off as wrong or off his rocker.  Yesterday marked the completion of week 1 and I have to say it went well.  There were a few times where I scratched my head but for the overall week it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  And there lies the reason I am doing this.  I went into this endeavor with the idea that it was going to suck.  There was no way this was going to be good.  And that just hasn't been the case.  Is Joel's style of preaching something I enjoy? No.  Am I 'all in' on this Prosperity Gospel?  Nope.  BUT I am listening.

photo credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Today Joel was talking about opening your hands and reaching towards God, a God who loves you, cares for you, and has predestined you to blessings.  Admittedly once I heard the word 'predestined' my BS alarm went up and I began to shut down.  While sitting in rush-hour traffic on I-95 I felt myself reaching towards my radio preset for bluegrass county.  Just as my finger touched the button I took a deep breath and listened.

While many could interpret the predestined (it hurts just to type it) blessings Mr. Perfect Tie Knot was talking about as bags of money falling from heaven, maybe the predestined blessings were the love of God as shown through the life and ministry of Jesus.  Maybe if I remove my preconceived ideas of what Joel is going to say I will be able to listen, hear, and interpret.  After all the is precisely what I do on Sunday's at church.  I do not take everything Jason, Hedy, and Dennis say at face value.  And I would hope that when I preach those who have not fallen asleep do not take everything I say without at least thinking about it and being willing to push back.

My hope over the next few weeks is to begin to listen to and learn from those who I have written off.  Whether that is someone in my office or a TV preacher with beautifully sculpted hair, they have something to offer me that I can learn from, and who knows I might just steal that quote for an upcoming sermon.

 Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@teerhardy) and #fortydaysofjoel for daily updates and posts!